An insight into writing styles
By Dr Shradha Kaul
The epochs have dictated or even necessitated the usage of a particular format and style of writing. Authors / writers have always used some genre or the other to put their writings across. One can almost trace a systematic evolution in the genres prevalent in writing styles.
I am going to take you through a journey in time through the writing styles to give you the power to understand and treasure the vast legacy the literary world has in terms of genres. This will help you appreciate your readings in the context of the epochs.
Genres can be distinguished by the literary technique, tone, content or even the length of the piece.
The general genres in literature are epic, tragedy, comedy, novel, short story and creative nonfiction; they are mostly defined by the cultural movement of the historical period in which they were composed. In literature we have three basic kinds of literature, poetry, drama and prose. These can be further subdivided
into the satire, the burlesque, the comic and so on.
In olden times literature was used to reflect and comment on the lives of various people. We also had treatises by learned men on leading an ideal life. Literature, world over, can be broadly segmented into three timeliness: the ancient, the medieval and the modern.
The ancient world saw literary works as commentaries on the times as well as conveyed messages directly or indirectly. The oldest forms were the classical myths and the holy books. The Bible can be traced back to 4000 BC - 70 BC. In India we had the Holy texts like the Vedas and the Upanishads. The four books of the Vedas are considered to have been composed between 2000BC- 500 BC. The Vedas and the Upanishads provided valuable insights into the historical and cultural development of India even though the content was highly philosophical in nature.
Then we had poets representing the noble deeds of noble men in the epics. In Greece we had the great epic, The Iliad, and also the great comedies and the grand tragedies based on the lives of the Emperors. This era saw great writers like Aristotle, Aristophanes, Aeschylus - the father of tragedy, Sophocles, and Euripides etc. Their writings were essentially didactic, used drama, comedy and tragedy to unravel the great mysteries of the times and were essentially based on the lives of the Greek rulers with a lot of divine
intervention thrown in.
In India we had two great epics making socially rich statements; these were the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These were passed on in the oral tradition and were actually written down much later. The ancient times literally saw a lot of song and drama.
The medieval times can also be said to be reeling under the influence of similar literary styles because there was not much development in terms of genres. It was only at the end of the 18th century, the theory of genre based on classical thought began to unravel in the era of enlightenment. The introduction of the printing press brought texts to a larger audience; the less privileged members of society became literate and began to express their views. This worked to destabilise the classical notions of genre, while still drawing attention to genre because new genres like the novel were being generated. The novel, was the greatest leveler both for the readers and the writers. The novel helped writers unleash their thoughts in all directions in terms of subject matter as well as audience. There was a voracious audience waiting to read in all the segments of society.
This era saw a plethora of social novels, romantic novels, historical novels, adventure novels etc. The novel became the most powerful medium of spreading the written word highlighting the fact that the use of genre as a tool must be able to adapt to changing 'times and meanings'.
The modern times have seen a lot of writing. The changes that have been wrecked on human beings have had to find a way out. This era has seen a lot of autobiographies, spiritual philosophies, biographies, mysteries, children's fiction, crime fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, romance novels, family sagas, science fiction, management fiction, political thrillers and tragedies.
In this era of information we not only have access to tremendous information but a virtual deluge of publications. We have American literature, Indian literature, Irish literature, African literature, in fact literature from all parts of the world, all at once.
—The author is an academic & writes on varied issues